It was very quiet when I woke up this morning, and I got to thinking about the value of solitude. Not being alone, or loneliness, but solitude. I looked up the definition online.
the state or situation of being alone.
“she savoured her few hours of freedom and solitude”
synonyms: loneliness, solitariness, remoteness, isolation, seclusion, retirement, withdrawal, purdah, privacy, privateness, peace, peace and quiet, desolation
It has a lot of different meanings or interpretations, as you can see. The definition also includes the words ‘withdrawal’ and ‘desolation’, not things I personally associate with solitude. Not until now, anyway. But ‘peace’ and ‘peace and quiet’ are in there, and they are what I feel, when I see or hear the word. Most people like to congregate. They like to be in the company of others. It is supposed to be natural, an instinctive urge to gather together, perhaps for protection and companionship, or to share food and goods.
But as I get older, I welcome solitude more and more. Gone are the days when I didn’t feel complete without the presence of a partner, and a close circle of friends. I have Ollie of course, so perhaps he counts as ‘company’, though it doesn’t feel like that. If I am peaceful, he reflects that in his own mood, and doesn’t disturb me at all.
The irony is that the more I seek solitude, the more it seems to evade me. A quiet country walk can be interrupted by a friendly local who wants to chat. The anticipation of time alone can be shattered by the unexpected arrival of relatives, or a lengthy phone call from a friend. Picking up a book, or just sitting down to think, is certain to precipitate the appearance of a parcel delivery, a neighbour who wants to borrow the hedge-trimmers, or a tele-sales phone call. It’s as if they know you are alone, and don’t want you to be.
Many people abhor solitude. They cannot imagine living alone, not socialising in like-minded groups, or never knowing when their next contact with someone will occur. If all else fails, they will chat to strangers in a supermarket queue, or hang around a bus stop, hoping to converse with anyone who happens by. Society views solitude as a disease to be cured, and the people who actively seek it as sufferers.
I think it’s time to reconsider, and to value this time of peace, reflection, and self-awareness. Celebrate those who cope nicely on their own, or decide to spend time in their own company. It is true that you can be alone in a crowd, if you choose to be. But just as true that you are sometimes never allowed to be alone, when you want to be.
Let me know your take on it, in the comments.
And have a peaceful Sunday. In solitude, if you want it that way.